You may not need an Atlanta GA estate planning lawyer to make a will (although that isn’t a wise decision), but what if you have no will at all? No one wants to think about their future demise, but death will be coming for all of us eventually. Without a will, what will become of your assets, your liabilities, and who will be the executor? Will any of your loved ones be left out in the cold?
Every state has its own specific set of laws, but by and large the basic rules are the same from state to state. A qualified Georgia estate planning lawyer is the best resource for uncovering what the laws are here. For someone to inherit intestate, or when there is no will, he or she must be a legal relative. Generally speaking a spouse (or civil partner in some states) inherits it all if there are no children. If there are children, the spouse may receive as little as 1/3 of the estate, and the rest is divided among the children.
The specifics concerning separated spouses, stepchildren, etc. can make things even more complicated, but there is one constant: no one can profit from a death they caused. If there are allegations or proof of abuse or murder, that person may be prohibited from inheriting at all. This makes sense; not only is abuse wrong, but the government wants to make sure that no one is rewarded for murder.
In cases where there are minor children and the other parent is still living, an estate planning lawyer will tell you that what is left behind usually goes solely to the spouse, with the understanding that he or she will use it for the benefit and welfare of him or herself and the children. If there are considerable assets, a will and trust lawyer in Atlanta can then help the surviving spouse to create living trusts for the children.
Sometimes, there is no surviving spouse or children. In these cases, distant relatives may be eligible to inherit some or all of the assets left behind. In no case, however, are friends and people not related to the deceased allowed to inherit. These people can only inherit based on the specifics of a will, and with no will, they have no claim.
Some assets aren’t passed along via a will, and so these items may also have clear beneficiaries listed on the specific documents.
- Life insurance policy proceeds
- Real estate, bank accounts, and other property held in joint tenancy or community property
- IRA funds, or other retirement plans that name a beneficiary
- Any funds held in a living trust
Perhaps the strangest thing that probate lawyers in Atlanta see is when there are no living family members and no will. When this happens, the assets are given to the state. If you want to make sure that your property is passed along to a friend or charity, be sure to make a will, because otherwise it goes to Uncle Sam.
Estate planning is very important, and your best bet is to hire an estate planning lawyer who has specific knowledge in this area of law. Each state has laws that change when and how people can inherit if you leave your estate intestate. So, do your loved ones a favor and leave a will. This way you can make sure that your estate is divided as you want it to be, without it going back to the government.
While trust lawyers in Atlanta, Georgia, have seen first-hand how important the right legal documents are, we also understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to estate planning. For example, the needs of one family will likely be completely different from those of another. Likewise, a certain single professional may benefit greatly from working with an estate planning lawyer, while another would have very little need at this point in his or her career.
So, how do you know what you need? The real answer is probably that you should talk to a trust lawyer in Atlanta, but that sounds a little self-serving. Instead, here are a few circumstances to get you started, and if you find that they get you thinking about what might be right for you, then it’s probably time to hire an attorney.
Footloose and Fancy-Free
For those who haven’t gotten married or had children yet, it’s likely that you don’t have much need for an estate planning lawyer. The biggest exception, however, is the need to create medical directives. These are necessary for everyone to ensure that your wishes are followed when you are not able to speak for yourself. To be fair, the younger individual who has a lot of assets, lives a high-risk lifestyle, or is seriously ill would want to look into more in-depth estate planning services.
Once you’ve made a commitment to someone that stops short of marriage, you will likely want to get an estate planning lawyer involved. This is due to the need for a will to protect your partner and ensure that he or she is entitled to assets and the ability to make medical decisions for you, if that is what you prefer. The attorney will help you put together durable powers of attorney, as well as to help direct what happens to your shared and individual property should you pass away.
Married, With Children
If you have children, the need for an estate planning lawyer becomes increasingly urgent. One of the most important things you’ll want to do is to name a legal guardian for any minor children. Along those same lines, you will probably want to use your estate plan to help create a financial plan that will support those young children should you be unexpectedly killed or incapacitated. This might include setting up some kind of a trust that will be managed for their care.
A Little Gray
Watching the kids grow up and seeing retirement ahead certainly do lead many of us to start thinking about estate planning. At this point in life, you’re interested in saving for your own future, as well putting together a plan for what you leave behind. An Atlanta GA trust lawyer is essential at this point to make sure you are maximizing your assets, avoiding unnecessary taxes, and making sure that your wishes are clearly laid out.
Facing Your Own Mortality
There are points in our lives where we are faced with our own mortality, and these are often the impetus for getting in touch with an estate planning lawyer. For example, if you have been diagnosed with a serious illness, you may find it comforting to get your affairs in order. Likewise, elderly folks generally find that they have reached a point where it makes sense to determine their legacies through estate planning.
If any of these situations resonate with you, it may be time to consider the services of a trust lawyer in Atlanta. He or she can help you work through your desires and create the appropriate set of legal documents that best meet your needs. Most importantly, by forming a relationship now with an attorney, he or she can help you make great choices based on the stage of life you are in. Staying one step ahead of the game is always best, and through proper legal planning, your trust lawyer in Atlanta can make sure you are positioned for whole-life security and success.
If you’d like to explore your options, call us at 770-425-6060.